Podcasting: the big opportunity: my #OzPod2016 talk

Podcasting: the big opportunity: my #OzPod2016 talk


Thank you, everyone – I’m really pleased
to be here today. First, may I congratulate you if you’re tuned
in to the radio – to ABC Extra on DAB and through the ABC Radio app. in the next thirty
minutes I plan to make some visual jokes, and Ill show at least one slide with three
pie charts on the screen. so good luck following on from home, not sure how this is going to
work, but thank you for tuning in to our ABC. I’m James Cridland, the radio futurologist
– a title that’s proof, if nothing else, of the fact that you can call yourself anything
if you print your own business cards. I’m a writer, a consultant (sometimes), and a
public speaker – and I go all round the world spotting trends in radio’s future, and helping
other people prepare. I’m now living in Brisbane in Queensland, though as you may be able to
guess from my slight accent, I’m British. I’ve spent 27 years in radio, during which
time I launched the first daily podcast for commercial radio in the UK, and the first
streaming radio app in the world. I also changed the BBC’s audio quality online from the
worst to the best-sounding of its many platforms. I’ve an eye on the future, and I think that
podcasts are part of it. So this morning I’d like to show you why. I’m going to delve a little deeper into
research about podcasting from the US, the UK and here in Australia. I’ll talk metrics
and success. But first, I’d like to talk about radio. Today, thankfully, isn’t a day where I have
to talk about the future of radio. I’ll spare you this image from 1934 predicting
that radio would become a fax machine, printing out a copy of today’s newspapers. (Also – how
big was this magazine?) I’ll gloss over radio’s early attempts
at the portable wireless set – the “dream-come-true” man-from-mars radio hat, released in 1949.
With a great review from Life magazine – sounds fine. I’ll whisk quickly past this fresh-faced
radio announcer, on the air in the UK in 1993. What a guy. What a waistcoat. And I’ll not be worrying what happened here,
eleven years ago, as WIRED magazine promised the death of radio and had a special guide
inside this magazine with “your guide to podcasting”. There are two ways of thinking about radio,
it seems to me. One way is to have a platformist view. To believe that radio is AM, FM, or
DAB. That radio has to be live. There are too many people in radio with a transmitter
mindset. The transmitter must be fed, 24 hours a day. Keeping the needle moving is the most
important thing. And then there’s another way of thinking
about radio. And it starts with the content. My definition of radio is a shared audio experience
with a human connection. So – Spotify or Pandora aren’t, really, radio. There’s no shared
experience, nor any human connection there. But podcasts? Absolutely. I’ve now lost
count of the amount of people who talk to me about moments in podcasts just like moments
on the radio. It probably started with Serial – even though
Serial was ten years after the start of podcasting. People at work were talking to me about Serial.
Asking which episode I was up to; wanting to share their own theories as to whether
Adnan Syed was guilty or innocent. Indeed, thanks to the reporting of Serial – and the
reporting of the Undisclosed podcast, Adnan Syed is now officially innocent – accused,
but no longer convicted, of Hae Min Lee’s murder. It used to be that the media were
the only people capable of affecting that kind of change – greyhound racing, Bronwyn’s
helicopter. But podcasting has now come of age. The reason why so many people here are affected
by that story is that shared experience; that human connection. So as a radio person, I’m
delighted that great radio – for that’s what it is – is on a new platform: that of
podcasting. Not, of course, that radio’s dying. It isn’t.
Broadly, radio is just as popular – if not more so – than it was ten years ago. Now – Time
Spent Listening is down, as you would expect – but around nine out of ten people still
tune into the radio at least once a week: whether you look at figures in the US or Canada,
Malaysia, Norway, the UK, or here in Australia. In recent months there’s been quite a discussion
about metrics for podcasting. Are we in the dark? See what I did there?

We don’t know whether a download isactually heard. We understand little about our audience. Surely, the lack of metrics
will kill the industry? There are two ways to look at this. Yes, by
comparison to a website, we know less about our audience. But by comparison to almost
everything else – particularly newspaper readership or radio audience figures – the amount of
data we have on podcasting is surprisingly detailed. And while companies like Omny Studio
in Melbourne, or Blubrry in the US, claim to have more detailed stats these days, the
data we all have is already pretty good. So by all means, push for better data. There’s
work going on in the US and the UK on this right now, though if Apple don’t take much
notice of it, then it’ll probably never happen. But podcasting might not have a metrics
problem. It does have problems to solve, and perhaps I’ll get into that a little later. What I’m going to do is to look at some
of the available research. Let me preface this by saying that it’s probably not a
great idea to compare stats from different countries, worked out in different ways, with
different cultures and different media markets: but I’m going to do that anyway and let’s
see what happens. Podcasting itself is still relatively small.
Let’s take a look at this pie from the UK.. [] this pie chart from the UK. If you look
at the share of ear – the stuff we put in our ears every day – then live radio is still
the leader by a long way. Podcasting accounts for about 2% of the time spent listening to
audio in the UK. And in the US, where streaming music is significantly
larger. There’s no Pandora in the UK, and the UK also has the BBC with their music stations. But podcasting is growing. 6.9% of adults
in the UK, and about double that in the US – that’s 35 million people – listen to at
least one podcast every week. I’m delighted to be able to share a lot
of new research today. This number is from ABC YourSpace research that shows a healthy
increase in podcast consumption – 14% more consumption in just twelve months. So how are we listening? Through mobile devices, of course. Omny Studio
have kindly shared some of their stats with me for this talk – and you can see that 83%
of accesses to podcasts served by Omny Studio are done from a mobile device; only 14% on
desktop. As ever, Australia leads the world on mobile, though the UK and the US also show
a majority of mobile use. So you’d think that podcasts are enjoyed
while on the move? Well, you’d be right… but also wrong. Because while the car is an important place
for podcasts, the vast majority of podcasts are consumed… at home. The ABC YourSpace
Podcast Survey, at the bottom here, tells a very similar story to the Podcast Consumer
study by Edison Research in the US – home first, then the car. Indeed, the only difference
is that we appear to use public transport here in Australia, whereas the US – not so
much. Incidentally, I’d like a job where I can
listen to podcasts while working. But the story doesn’t end there. Because
increasingly there are new ways of getting podcasts to people. Whooshkaa revealed to
me this week that 15% of their podcast plays are coming through embedded audio in Facebook
posts. A further 12% through embedded players within websites. But what content are we sticking in our ears?
Well, I started this by talking about radio, and my own research points to radio having
a significant hold over podcasting, with around a third of all podcasts in the iTunes Top
100 originally being radio shows here in Australia, and in the UK. Over one-in-six top podcasts
come from radio in the US, too – a country with few national radio brands and a vibrant
independent podcasting sector. And the US has a hold on us, too. You may
have seen a list from the ABC with the most popular podcasts listened to by their audience,
as measured through the ABC YourSpace podcast survey. Here’s the top three. And at number
3… This American Life, which a quarter of all survey respondents under 55 said they
listened to. (It is also broadcast on RN). Ted talks at number 2 Conversations at #1 WHEN are people listening? This graph [] is
the scariest graph you’ll ever see, from the UK. But it’s fascinating – it shows
what people are using throughout the day. [] THIS line is live radio. A peak at breakfast,
then a small peak just after 5pm as we drive home. And [] THIS line is podcasting. There
is a morning commute; but early evenings appear to be podcasting’s peak time. This, I think,
mirrors what radio programmers have been saying for a while – that breakfast is a time to
connect with the world and with other people, and to find out what’s going on: while going
home from work, you want a bit of time for yourself. WHERE are we using podcasts? Again, Omny Studio
have given me this data – [] showing where their podcasts are downloaded. Initially,
this comes as no big shock: it appears to be where the people are – in NSW, in Victoria.
Cold, miserable places that sadly aren’t Queensland. But if you index this data against the Australian
population, then something interesting appears. First – wow, Victorians LOVE podcasts, as
do the boring people in the ACT – but second… there’s a real opportunity in Queensland
and WA. If people there used podcasts as much as they do elsewhere, that’s some significant
numbers you can add to podcasting. And that’s what I’d like to highlight
as podcasting’s biggest challenge. In the US, only 55% of people are familiar
with the term “podcasting”. [] 45% of people – nearly half the population, in a
place which is leading the world in podcast consumption – don’t know what one is. And
that is podcasting’s great opportunity. All of us in this room have a responsibility
for education. Not just learning how to spell. We have a responsibility to help people understand
what podcasts are; and a responsibility to make sure you’re producing content that’s
interesting to them. There are lots of podcasts coming out of this building, and coming out
of Melbourne. Not much from anywhere else. And it’s our responsibility to help people discover that great content, too – whether
it’s through excellent podcast apps like Adelaide’s Pocketcasts, or websites, newsletters,
or radio shows. Serial’s website contained a video (which I’d watch if you can), and
some really plain English on how to get a podcast. We should do this too. Radio programmers
tell you to constantly reset – to remind people who you’re interviewing, what your name is,
what the radio station is called. We should use the same techniques when talking about
podcasting, about apps, about Digital Radio. This
is not familiar to most people. We need to constantly remind them how it works. Podcasting – on-demand radio – doesn’t need
much bandwidth, nor does it require the latest iPhone. Any data connection, NBN or not, makes
podcasts available. So where people are is immaterial. It’s that people understand
what podcasting is. That’s the sound of success to me in terms of podcasting. And, reading Michael Mason’s succinct plan
for the future of ABC Radio this week, it would seem that podcasting has a very special
place to play in the ABC’s future. For many, it’s their first taste of well-produced speech
radio, and their first taste of documentaries and in depth News reporting. It is a key public
purpose for a public broadcaster. So what of the future? I think the ‘podcast’ is just one new
platform for great radio. And there are already other new ways of making great audio content
available to audiences. NPR One is a great and fascinating app – it
takes individual news stories from across NPR programming and puts them together in
a personalised experience. More of the stories you want – less of the stories you don’t. For music radio, My Capital XTRA is a UK radio
station which lets you skip the songs you don’t like on the app. You still hear the
radio announcers and everything you expect from the radio, including the same type of
music – you can just avoid the songs you don’t want to hear. And iHeartRadio is producing something new,
in the US for now, called iHeartRadio Plus, which as far as I can work out will do the
same kind of thing: a radio experience that can be personalised. Time is the key to personalisation. All these
services are disaggregating long-form content to make a skippable, personalisable, future
for audio. Gone are the one hour long shows. Audiences are now consuming short, five minute
pieces, with metadata and other content, to make a great-sounding personalised audio stream. So perhaps I might make a plea to some podcasters
here today, to think really carefully about the length of your podcasts. I’m not sure
a 40-minute podcast is necessarily where we’re headed. You might consider how you could atomise
that content – to break it up into a set of smaller pieces, to allow a better user experience
by lego-bricking those together in different ways. Can I have your show, but without that
sport story in the middle, please? Can I skip past a story that I’m not interested in? So finally – if you ask me what the future
is for radio or for podcasting, I’d think it’s related to these three things. TECHNOLOGY – is an RSS feed the right and
only way to deliver audio, or is it just one of a series of ways that we can get on-demand
audio to our audience? Do we put podcasts into Facebook? Are podcasts front and centre
in our own apps, too? If most podcasts are enjoyed at home, let’s make sure that podcasts
get into the technology we use there: iView, Telstra TV, your smart television or Presto. USER EXPERIENCE – how easy is it to find your
podcast, and to play it? How can we make it even easier? How can we educate our audiences
as to what a podcast is? How can we raise the amount of people who understand podcasting?
How can we make podcasting as natural as turning on the radio? And CONTENT. Podcasting has some great content,
and some not-so-great content. How can we make the right content for audiences to enjoy?
And does a podcast need to be made differently than a radio program? If we get all that right, then success looks
like our audiences smiling, our advertisers – if we have them – smiling too. Thank you.

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